COLLEGE chiefs have hit out at union bosses for their "unreasonable" pay demands as lecturers across Scotland go on strike. 

It's the second time college staff have walked out as part of a long-running dispute between Further Education Lecturers' Association (EIS-FELA) union and Colleges Scotland over a "cost of living pay increase and ensuring that lecturers' pay keeps up with inflation".

Lecturers at Paisley's West College Scotland campus are currently striking with classes suspended today as a result. 

READ MORE: Classes suspended as West College Scotland lecturers get set for strike action

A further two strike dates have also been proposed on March 6 and March 21, should a deal not be met between the sides. 

However, college chiefs say they have already met with EIS-FELA bosses 10 times in a bid to reach an agreement. 

They say finances are extremely tight in the sector and, on top of the annual three per cent annual efficiency savings all public bodies are being asked to meet, the £10 million cost to colleges for the current pay offer also has to come from making cuts. 

John Gribben, Director of Employment Services at Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association, said: “It is disappointing that the EIS-FELA has not suspended strike action whilst negotiations are ongoing.  We have met with the EIS-FELA on 10 occasions to discuss pay and will be meeting them again on Thursday, 7 February to try and end this disruptive strike action. 

“The EIS-FELA is aware that colleges are already having to make cuts to finance the additional pay offer which they have rejected.  Their unreasonable pay demands would mean fewer courses, fewer students, and fewer lecturing jobs in the college sector.

“As we have repeatedly said to the EIS-FELA, the pay increases over 2017-20 from harmonisation are directly connected to the current additional pay offer on the table over the same three-year period and cannot be separated – a pay rise is a pay rise irrespective of where it comes from.  

“College lecturers in Scotland are by far the best paid across the UK and they have rejected a combined pay deal that would increase national average pay by over 12%, or more than £4,000, from 2017-20.

“Any deal must be affordable and sustainable for the sector and the EIS-FELA should recognise how strong the overall package for lecturing staff is.  Not only are lecturers benefitting from significant pay rises, they have also seen substantial improvements in their terms and conditions, including 62 days’ annual holiday, a reduction in weekly contact with students to 23 hours, and excellent pensions provision. 

“Despite considerable increases in pay and improvements in terms and conditions, this still isn’t enough for the EIS-FELA.  It remains within the gift of the EIS-FELA to suspend strike action and end this unnecessary disruption to students, who are losing out the most.”

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "Further education lecturers have not received a cost-of-living pay increase for almost three years, since April 2016.

"In hope of reaching a negotiated agreement, the EIS recently submitted an amended proposal which we believed would be likely to break the impasse.

READ MORE: 'Unity is strength' - Renfrewshire's college lecturers on strike

"The EIS is asking only for a fair cost-of-living increase, similar to that already awarded to college support staff and also in-line with public sector pay policy."

He added: "Management's claims of unaffordability of our claim have already been shown to be based on some rather questionable calculations.

"The actual costs of the award to support staff and our pay claim for lecturers are practically identical, yet Colleges Scotland continues to push the fantasy that one claim is affordable and sustainable while the other is unaffordable and unrealistic."